High School Never Ends: The Social Hierarchy

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Written by Rachel Castro, Adrian Gonzalez, Maryam Khan

It’s a common theme in every fictional high school story: the popular girls in Mean Girls, the athletes in High School Musical, and the standoffish outcast from Riverdale. The separation of students into cliques is ingrained in school systems around the country, but does it affect Woodgrove students?

Social hierarchy is the stratification of people based on factors of popularity and materialism. Students and teachers both agree it is something that naturally takes effect in social settings. Teens are trying to figure out who they are and where they belong. Because of this, they are often the most vulnerable to the negative effects of cliques.

“Social hierarchy plays a role in every high school student’s life. It is challenging to navigate the social groups and peer pressure in high school,” says FACEtime coordinator Justine Jarvis.

Because of this, Woodgrove started the FACEtime program three years ago as a way to have small groups of students in which to interact. Student leaders and teachers are trained to enhance the cohesiveness of student interactions in a safe environment.

Defined social groups become an issue when students are looked down upon, or looked up to because of their status on the social pyramid.

The increasing presence of social media such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, can exacerbate social pressures. “Social media definitely has an effect because you see pictures that are edited and some kids want to be like what they see on the different mediums because it’s considered cool,” says junior Julie Horton.

While cliques and groupings can gain negative attention, they aren’t always a bad thing. Often times, students search for others with similar interests, and naturally form their own social groups. Art teacher Shawn Grove says, “Groupings allow students to have their own opinions and hopefully work towards them to see change and make a difference as far as they want.”

Now, what comes after those critical four years of high school? According to Woodgrove alumni, popularity becomes less relevant, skills become important, and it becomes a race to the top.

Woodgrove High School graduate Cristian Gonzalez comments, “After graduation, the social hierarchy definitely began to dissolve.”

Other university students feel similarly. Vir­ginia Tech freshman Hailey Dunster says,“It’s not really a defined social hierarchy. It’s mostly based on people’s interests… I don’t really see anyone thinking they’re better than anyone. It’s definitely more dissolved than in high school and especially as a freshman because people are just trying to make friends regardless of where they came from.”

While popularity might not be as im­portant, social stratification does not com­pletely go away. For example, the issues of discrimination against women in the workplace have been at the forefront of the equality movement.

This gender gap can be seen as a social stratification in and of itself. Women are automatically placed at the bottom and men are placed much farther up. Federal employee, Rob Vazquez says he has seen it in the military, the corporate world, and the government.

“Social hierarchy is stronger than ever. I do not believe it will ever go away,” Vazquez states.

In the ‘real world,’ people may still face situations of social hierarchy. People can either choose to view this as an obstacle, or use it to become more motivated.

Gonzalez gives good advice on how to view social hierarchies in a more motivat­ing light, and encourages self-reflection.

Gonzalez comments, “It can be a motivator or completely detract from one’s sense of worth and sense of purpose.”